Storytelling workshop for over 55’s in Wells tackles loneliness

A group of local social housing customers from Wells, Somerset were recently invited to take part in storytelling workshop aimed at tackling loneliness among the over 55s.

Eight customers benefitted from the activity which took place at Sheldon Drive Independent Living Scheme. The session was hosted by the Aster Foundation, the charitable arm of local housing association Aster Group, along with Film Crew 4u – a social enterprise that has recently graduated from the Foundations social incubator, inc.

The workshop taught those attending how to use green screen technology to create a presentation about their lives. Attendees also had the opportunity to share their creations and stories with their peers at the end of the session.

Film Crew 4u was set up by Portsmouth resident Billy Stevenson as a way to use filmmaking as a form of therapy.

Billy said: “Pursuing my interest in filmmaking gave me the direction and purpose to stay on the right path after facing my own mental health issues and battling with alcohol dependency. It taught me how powerful filmmaking is as a recovery tool and I wanted to see how it could help other people who are struggling in life – that’s the thinking behind Film Crew 4u.”

inc. is a 10-month business development programme that Aster Group offers to help nurture start-ups that can benefit local communities. inc. inducts a new cohort of entrepreneurs onto the incubator programme every year. It draws on the resources and expertise of the local housing association and its people, with mentoring and additional guidance being provided by established social entrepreneurs. Participants are also helped to make connections with potential partners and future investors.

Billy added: “Getting our first project off the ground, with the help of Aster, is immensely exciting, particularly as we have the opportunity to tackle a major societal problem in elderly loneliness.”

Annie Maidment, an independent living officer at Aster Group, said: “The storytelling workshop was an amazing experience for all involved. To be filmed, to reminisce and share personal experiences with each other over a cup of tea, biscuits and cake was just the perfect way to create togetherness.

“We laughed, sat in awe, and one or two of us even had tears in our eyes, listening to the stories from people who have lived such full and amazing lives. Loneliness is an endemic issue for the older members of our communities and initiatives like this make a huge difference to their quality of life.”

The workshop was offered to Aster’s social housing customers as part of the Aster Foundation’s pledge to improve wellbeing and connectivity for at least 900 isolated older people by 2030. The programme includes a number of other schemes such as Aster Connect Re-engage, a telephone befriending service run by Aster volunteers.

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